Serving up spirit on-screen

Haley Keizur 

Staff Writer 

Spirit Squad performs at the Chase Center in San Francisco. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The Spirit Squad is typically seen in War Memorial Gymnasium, clad in sparkly green costumes and bright gold poms, cheering on the Dons and hyping up the crowd. With this year’s sports postponed, their role in the USF community looks a bit different.

The Spirit Squad is the official dance and pom team at USF. For this entire semester, the squad will be hosting weekly workshops, available to all students, from 6:30-7:15 p.m PDT three days a week. Each day will have a theme: workouts on Mondays, technique on Wednesdays, and choreography on Thursdays. Students who sign up are welcome to attend whichever sessions they prefer, as well as offer suggestions for other activities. 

According to senior co-captain Rachel Fong, the Spirit Squad normally performs at home basketball games, as well as other sporting and athletic events. During a typical year, they have auditions in the fall, where 12-14 students — including returners and new members — are chosen to be a part of the team.

Fong’s co-captain senior Sergio Esteve Leal explained that these virtual sessions will allow everyone to try out regardless of their prior experience. “We’re really sad that this season has been postponed, but understand and prioritize the health of students. We would normally have had auditions and our first practice, but since we’re all home we wanted to do something for the community,” he said.

The training and technique will be taught by captains, guest trainers, and alumni. Another positive of being virtual, Leal said, is that alumni who typically cannot make it to USF to teach a class can do so from home.

The co-captains emphasized that they are excited to focus on various fundraisers and volunteer opportunities this year. Leal said, “We want to have a positive community, including giving back to fundraisers that point to the team. We are highlighting a few nonprofits and organizations and starting a volunteering program to encourage those who come to our workshops to donate.” Fong added that they are currently getting feedback from last year’s team to hear everyone’s voices and make sure to include as many organizations as possible. 

As they round out their fourth and final year, Fong and Leal are looking forward to leaving a legacy and bettering the team for the future. 

“When I started freshman year, I was only 17, and now I’m 21. I’ve basically grown up with the spirit squad alongside me,” Leal said. Fong added that the team has been a big part of her college experience, teaching her skills outside of her academic field, and providing opportunities to lead and follow.

Fong and Leal hope that these virtual workshops will be an opportunity for students to build skills before the next round of auditions. However, those who do not intend on auditioning but are just looking for a place to work out are also welcome. Leal said that during this crazy time, it is important that students find ways to stay active both physically and mentally, and these workshops are a good place to receive positive feedback while exercising.

Alyssa Lam, who coaches the team and graduated from USF in 2018 after being on the team herself for three years, explained that the team typically learns 15-20 dances per semester, which can be especially challenging for those without previous dance experience. The workshops give the community a taste of what the Spirit Squad does and allows participation even though there are no performances scheduled this year. The Spirit Squad will also be partnering with other on-campus groups, such as VarCity, USF’s hip-hop dance team, to choreograph and build community.

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